In a message dated 98-08-17 16:09:25 EDT, you write:
> Subj: Re: Practical = BS
> Date: 98-08-17 16:09:25 EDT
> From: email@example.com (Greg & Lei Gunthorp)
> To: LionKuntz@aol.com
> CC: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sanet)
> I thought that the post on your production practices was excellent until
> added the negative remarks about Steve's scale!
I didn't say anything negative about Steve's scale: I was awestruck by
vast wealth under his control. It takes an ambitious workaholic to try to
keep that all farmed. I recall an apocryphal story about an Amish farmer who
replied to the question of why doesn't he get more land and increase his farm:
"I am only smart enough to farm 80 acres well."
> Isn't anybody else going to stand up for Steve? Unless I am mistaken, 175
> acres is still a "small" farm in the US. But I guess it shouldn't be me
> standing up for him because I own 65 acres and farm almost 100! Am I a
> farmer" also because I raise about 1000 pigs a year? I'm probably one of
> the smallest full time hog farmers left. Just like Steve is probably one
> a handful of 175 acre family supporting farms in Pennsylvania.
> I'd like to hear more about these $15,000/half acre systems. I've never
> seen or heard of them. Doesn't it still take at least acre farms to cover
> living expenses?
There are no clones, no identical copies of anything. Not only is every
electron unique, but they each have their own personality and their own name!
Of course, only God knows the subtle differences or each name.
Everybody has to make their own way with their own talents, skills,
abilities, and circumstances. Oregon Tilth, an organic certifier, lists all
their certified farms, the certified organic products produced by each farm,
and the number of acres certified as organic. There are slightly more than
200 farms in this list. (The number of acres certified is not the size of the
property, but only reflects the acres tested as pesticide/toxics-free used for
organic methods production. It also does not reflect the lands used by barns,
houses, driveways and other untillable land surface.)
Each one of these farms is different, with different lists of products.
The majority are less than ten acres most less than six acres, and most of the
larger ones are orchards and organic hay/alfalfa growers. I dare say that
most of these farms support their farmers. One notable exception in this list
has zero acres certified, because the crop is sprouts (probably grown in a
warehouse. I dare say that this one is also financially sustainable.
Last spring I met a "farmer" who was selling plant starts from an 8 foot
square booth on the sidewalk at the Eugene Saturday Market. He told me he
makes all he needs selling one day a week at only this market. "The key is to
have your land paid off and not be in debt" he told me. I bet that he grows
all his "crops" in a greenhouse in a backyard. At the same market I met a
couple growing shitake mushrooms in a barn -- that was their "farm". It is
not for me, or you, or the USDA to define how large an area needs to be worked
to make a living by the farmsteaders -- it is the farmsteaders who make that
In Oregon they have the "death of organic farmsteads" law, which is a
land-use regulation which dictates that a home cannot be built on agricultural
lands until after $80,000 per year agricultural-income is proven. Lots of
people who raise their own seeds and grow non-mechanically don't need that
much money to meet their needs. The average middle-class income is well below
that figure, and many millions of people would find it a big raise in pay to
get half that number.
Probably most of those Oregon Tilth farms could not get started now with
the new land use regulation. It takes time to build a farm operation. This
law requires the farmer to live elsewhere during that time. I know the
supposed good reasons for the land-use regulation, and don't need to hear them
stated in replies. They assume that farmers are good citizens who not only
feed the national population and the world's hungry, but also support bankers,
machinery makers, fertilizer-chemical companies, bio-engineers, and rafts of
middlemen who spend their working lives trying to figure out how to get your
life's work away from you at the lowest possible prices.
> By the way, my land grand university says it takes at
> least 1200 acres to support a family. So unless Pennsylvania is a lot
> different than Indiana, Steve Groff is doing an excellent job!
> I'd love to raise less pigs also, but I'd have a job in town to pay the
> bills. We are looking at vegetables and free range eggs to diversify our
> income, but haven't been able to find any enterprises that look as
> as you talk about. Looking forward to your information, especially the
> marketing skills required to sell these herbs.
I had no trouble walking into a small rural-area library and finding
shelves full of books on "How I make a decent living raising & selling (insert
subject here)" books. I wouldn't begin to tell YOU what to raise, but I would
make myself responsible for the success of any student of Ecological
> I know of quite a few people who never get less than 60 cents per pound
> their pigs because they have direct markets. If we sold pigs today, we
> would have got 35 cents selling sustaianable pigs on the conventional
Funny, I recall Hugh Lovell's comment that he cries when he only gets
$2/lb for for his potatos on the "Biodynamic Now" list I also subscribe to.
The very first time I looked on the World Wide Web for CSA farmers to check
their prices, I found ten easily who get $2/lb for produce when the
supermarket sells potatos 10 lbs/$1, and tomatoes at $0.49/lb in season. They
not only get paid these prices, but they also get paid IN ADVANCE! Sometimes
they get paid the whole season's produce in advance in one lump sum. If I
remember, and if I feel like it, I'll go back and find those address for you.
> There are a lot of differences in market opportunities across the
> this country AND a lot of difference in farmers ability to market their
> products for premiums. Aren't most of these enterprises dependant on
> excellent marketing skills?
> Gunthorp's Pasture-ized Pork
> LaGrange, Indiana (a stones throw from Ohio & Michigan)
> visit our farm at www.grassfarmer.com
So, take some marketing courses. Or, do you prefer being heavily in
debt, supporting off-farm (meaning people who never step foot on bare dirt,
but only walk on carpet, driveways or office floors) families who are happy to
sell you more land, more equipment, more chemicles, and more loans to pay for
Intelligence can be increased by using it. Use it more often and you
will get better at using it. It's not how big you farm, but how smart you
farm that makes the difference between success or failure at all farm sizes.
Now, I am not belittling you or your intelligence. These are generic "you"
statements applicable to any reader out there. No matter how high your
intelligence is presently, there is room to get smarter, and market smarter.
Practice makes perfect -- market smarter and build a premium brand name that
people recognize, and people will gladly pay you more.
Sincerely, Lion Kuntz
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